Anti-Lincoln Convention Opens in Cleveland, Ohio

May 31, 1864

At Cosmopolitan Hall in Cleveland there is a convention of about 350 anti-Administration Radicals from 15 states calling themselves Radical Democracy. The convention nominated John C. Fremont for President and John Cochrane for vice president.   The call for the convention had stated:

The imbecile and vacillating policy of the present Administration in the conduct of the war, being just weak enough to waste its men and means to provoke the enemy, but not strong enough to conquer the rebellion – and its treachery to justice, freedom and genuine democratic principles in its plan of reconstruction, whereby the honor and dignity of the nation have been sacrificed to conciliate the still-existing and arrogant slave power, and to further the ends of unscrupulous partisan ambition – call in thunder tones upon the lovers of justice and their country to come to the rescue of the imperiled nationality and the cause of impartial and universal freedom threatened with betrayal and overthrow.

The way to victory and salvation is plain. Justice must be throned in the seats of national legislation, and guide the executive will. The things demanded, and which we ask you to join us to render sure, are the immediate extinction of slavery throughout the whole United States by Congressional action, the absolute equality of all men before the law without regard to race or color, and such a plan of reconstruction as shall conform entirely to the policy of freedom for all, placing the political power alone in the hands of the loyal, and execution with vigor the law for confiscating the property of the rebels.

Historian Wayne C. Temple wrote: “When a group of dissatisfied Republicans gathered at Cleveland, Ohio, on May 31, 1864, to pick John C. Fremont for their Presidential candidate, a warm political friend informed the President that only about four hundred persons attended this opposition convention. Immediately, Lincoln picked up his Bible and turned to I Samuel 22:2 and read: ‘And every one that was in distress, and every one that was in debt, and every one that was discontented, gathered themselves unto him; and he became a captain over them; and there were with him about four hundred men.’ Historian William Ernest Smith wrote in The Francis Preston Blair Family in Politics: “The Cleveland convention met with a motley crowd of four or five hundred delegates present. Fremont had been too much interested in promoting a project for a Pacific railroad to pay much attention to the nominated by acclamation by the vociferous Germans, Radicals, and War Democrats. Wendell Phillips and Frederick Douglas, a negro, were the conspicuous orators at the convention. After deserting Gratz Brown for the erratic General John Cochrane of New York for Vice-President, they adopted a platform in which they demanded abolition, a one-term presidency, free speech and free press, and the division of rebel property among Union soldiers and sailors. Fremont promptly accepted the nomination and all of the platform except the part which provided for the confiscation of rebel property.”

In Washington, there is a cabinet meeting but Navy Secretary Gideon Welles declared that “[n]o special Matters” were discussed. The “Sunday School Celebration,” paraded past the White House. The Washington Evening Star reports, “President Lincoln was cheered by the children, and he, being at one of the front windows, acknowledged the compliment with a bow.” White House aide Edward Duffield Neill writes that “four or five thousand Sunday School children, with banner and bands of music[,] marched by the President’s House, while he stood at the window and received their hearty cheers with smiles.”

President Lincoln writes a memo about Army Colonel Thomas Worthington: “Today I verbally told Colonel Worthington that I did not think him fit for a Colonel; and now, upon his urgent request, I put it in writing.”

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Published in: on May 31, 2014 at 9:00 am  Leave a Comment  

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